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Dozen apartments, 5-star events, murky web of firms — story behind Bengali editor’s arrest

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Suman Chattopadhyay, who was editor of Ei Samay, a Times Group newspaper, at the time of his arrest on 20 December, is accused in a Rs 3,000-cr Ponzi con.

New Delhi: Kolkata-based journalist Suman Chattopadhyay, in CBI custody for his alleged involvement in a Rs 3,000 crore Ponzi scam, had his bail rejected for the third time within a week Thursday.

Arrested on 20 December, Chattopadhyay will now be in CBI custody till at least 9 January, with his wife Kasturi telling ThePrint that she was “clueless” about why her husband was not being released.

The arrest of the star editor, whose career spans some of Bengali journalism’s most prominent names, has once again brought into focus the series of alleged Ponzi schemes that have been uncovered in West Bengal, Odisha, Assam and Tripura in the recent past.

Named after the notorious early 20th-century Italian swindler Charles Ponzi, the schemes involve duping investors by promising them high returns. In 2014, the Supreme Court had ordered the CBI to take over the investigation into all the cases from state police, and several high-profile people, including MPs, have been named as accused since.

ThePrint takes you through the probe and its status.

Also read: CBI arrests noted journalist in Kolkata in connection with chit fund scam

Allegations against Chattopadhyay

Chattopadhyay, a former director of Disha Productions and Media Private Ltd, which owned Disha, a Bengali magazine, and Ek Din, a Bengali newspaper, was the editor of Ei Samay, a Times Group newspaper, when he was arrested.

According to the CBI, Chattopadhyay received money from a suspected Ponzi scam operator, I-Core group, in his and his company’s bank accounts. Investigators believe I-Core group, which allegedly raised over Rs 3,000 crore by misleading investors, diverted chunks of the funds through Chattopadhyay’s company.

Chattopadhyay, they allege, took over Rs 40 crore each from I-Core and another company, the West Bengal-based Saradha Group, which is accused of conning lakhs of investors of over Rs 2,000 crore.

The CBI has on its radar a dozen apartments owned by Chattopadhyay across Kolkata, all of which he allegedly bought with ill-gotten wealth.

The scam

A series of companies, including Saradha, Rose Valley, Alchemist and I-Core allegedly duped investors of thousands of crores by convincing them to invest in various schemes, and then diverting the funds to several accounts.

These accounts are said to have included those of politicians, with some money also allegedly invested in the Bengali film industry.

According to investigators, the masterminds of these cons often wooed these investors with conferences and events at five-star hotels and farmhouses.

When market regulator caught whiff, Saradha is said to have launched collective investment schemes like tourism packages, infrastructure finance, and motorcycle manufacturing.

Also read: Former BJP minister Janardhana Reddy appears before police, denies ponzi scam allegations

Long list of suspects

Others allegedly involved in the scams include Srinjoy Bose, the owner of the Bengali daily Pratidin, and journalist Kunal Ghosh, both of whom are former MPs of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress. Both are out on bail.

Incumbent MPs Sudip Bandyopadhyay and Tapas Pal, also members of the Trinamool Congress, feature among the accused too. They were also arrested but released on bail.

West Bengal minister Madan Mitra was arrested as well in 2014, but got bail after spending 21 months in jail. Former Trinamool Congress vice-president Rajat Majumdar and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Mukul Roy, a former Trinamool member, are suspects as well.

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  1. With all the other big fishes granted bail it defeats me as to what makes his case so extraordinary.

  2. Suman was a very good student and belong to a very reputed family. He was a junior to me at our school.
    I feel sorry for him.But offlate he was eroding his creditibility because of one sided reports.
    And with this arrest he lost his all genre of good journalism.
    A sad episode.
    However I am interested to have his current status.

  3. One feels deeply sorry for people who invest in such Ponzi schemes. High inflation turned real rates of interest negative some years back, driving many people to gold and real estate. The primary market for equity is almost dead. Few decent options, especially for families that live largely on interest income. Some better options for bank FDs, coupled with tax breaks, should be thought of.

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